As I write Chelsea are engaged in a Moneybags League tussle with Inter Milan and itâ€™s not a pretty sight. Itâ€™s like watching two steroid junkies in fat suits trying to wrestle and thread a needle simultaneously; the subtleties of the game have been lost in the tension. Itâ€™s less a football match and more an exercise in desperate self-justification.
Iâ€™m jealous of course. Itâ€™s not just because the â€˜entertainmentâ€™ at Stamford Bridge is spiteful and petty that Iâ€™m more interested in whatâ€™s going on at the DW Stadium where Villa are taking on Wigan. Should the Latics turn over Oâ€™Neillâ€™s snore inducing mixture of giants and speed merchants theyâ€™ll be doing us a favour, and weâ€™re going to need several large ones if weâ€™re going to finish this season with a ticket for next yearâ€™s snarlfest safely in our hands. The Champions League is over hyped, over blown, over rated and provides countless games of tedium and mediocrity and itâ€™s where we want to be. It is the modern day mark of a successful team. Never mind the trophies, feel the weight of the bags of cash.
Weâ€™ve nine matches left, four at home and five away. If we win them all then weâ€™re uncatchable unless Villa do likewise & Emile Heskey goes goal crazy. Weâ€™re not going to win them all though, thereâ€™s too many tough ones and thereâ€™s been little in our performances this season to suggest that we have what it takes to go to places where itâ€™s difficult to win and get results. Additionally thereâ€™s been nothing to show that we can take points from the top three sides. Or not so far there hasnâ€™t.
The team has already changed and evolved several times in the seven months since the heady opening day win over Liverpool (when no-one realised they were crap) and the football lesson handed out to Hull City a few days later and I think it needs to change again. The side in August was built around the pace and skill of Lennon, Defoe and Modric. Modricâ€™s injury against Birmingham was the first dent in that model but Krancjar looked a more than adequate replacement by chipping in with goals and looking the bargain buy he was. This version of the side climaxed with the 9-1 result against Wigan.
We then went through a stodgy period where goals were harder to find & we came to rely more on the mighty Dawsonâ€™s stalwart defending and hoofs up to Crouch. The style suffered but we picked up important points against Blackburn and Man City and conceded one goal in a six game run from mid-December onwards, but that was a run that included a damaging loss to Wolves, a draw with Hull and the injury to Lennon from which heâ€™s still not returned.
Following the abysmal performances at Anfield and Molineux the third incarnation of the 2009/10 team formed. Redknapp made changes and whether by luck or judgement heâ€™s seen the wing play of Bale and the goals of Pavlyuchenko reinvigorate a challenge that appeared to have hit the â€˜wallâ€™. Scrappy but deserved wins over Everton, Blackburn and Wigan combined with the slip-ups of those around us have put us back ahead of the pack. To stay there weâ€™re going to have change once again. All of our away victories have come against teams in trouble at the bottom. Weâ€™re not going to get maximum points at any of Man City (unbeaten at home), Sunderland (only lost twice), Man United (only lost once) or maybe even at Stoke or Burnley unless we develop qualities that havenâ€™t been evident so far.
We have won 11 of the last 25 Premier League matches where weâ€™ve been ahead at half time, but failed to win the remaining 14. This stat says much. Since Birmingham at home weâ€™ve needed to be in front at half time to win the game. Where are the late goals, the heroic comebacks or the evidence to show that our class and pressure will eventually wear the opposition down? To get good value from our remaining away games, to avoid dropping home points (against Chelsea and the Gooners at least), weâ€™re going to have to prove that we can dig deep through the whole ninety minutes and show that we can score at any time in a game no matter what its state.
The defeats against Liverpool and Wolves (twice) both occurred when we conceded very early and couldnâ€™t get back into it. Itâ€™s not a characteristic often associated with Spurs teams down the years, but if we can develop a resiliency that gets us out of those sort of positions (and similar) in the remaining nine games, then weâ€™ll stand a better chance of getting the points we need without having to rely on others, because theyâ€™ll let us down, just as Wigan have tonight.
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